URBANA – On May 19, 2013, Peter Franklin-White, 90, passed away at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana after a prolonged illness from complications of a broken hip. He resided in Morgantown, W.Va., and was visiting his son Michael and his wife Maria Lennie in Champaign for his 90th birthday celebration.
Peter Franklin-White was a former principal dancer with Ballet Rambert (1939-42) and the Royal Ballet (1942-66) of England.
His love of steam trains enticed him to travel to London each day to study ballet and theater. He lived in a dressing room in the Mercury Theatre, London, and while in training, met many of the great playwrights, actors, dancers and choreographers of the period.
During World War II, he rehearsed by day, performed by evening, and by night served as an air raid warden and dispatch rider, watching for incoming German bombs and sprinting around London on a bicycle to dig out bodies - living and dead.
Franklin White joined Ballet Rambert in 1939, at age 15, and in 1941 moved to the Sadler's Wells Ballet, which Ninette de Valois had founded in 1931 as the Vic-Wells Ballet, later the Royal Ballet.
He became principal character dancer and was considered one of the top balletic mimes of the world. In the 1960s, he danced with Margot Fonteyn, Michael Somes, Rudolf Nureyev, Nadia Nerina, Beryl Grey, Moirer Shearer and Alexander Grant, among others.
He performed with the company when it followed the front lines shortly after the invasion of Europe and danced in Eastern and Western Europe and in North America.
In 1952, Faber and Faber published White and Ashbridge's book on touring North America, Sadler's Wells Ballet Goes Abroad.
With the Association of Ballet Clubs, he organized tours of lecture demonstrations in the 1950s and '60s, and with a select group of members of the Royal Ballet, brought London's ballet to the surrounding country.
In 1966, he moved to Canada and later the USA and became a lecturer and consultant in stage movement. In the 1970s, he was an assistant professor of theater at the University of Illinois, UIUC, and dance teacher at the National Academy of Dance, Champaign.
Franklin White was a director, choreographer, fight master and teacher in opera, theater and ballet. He directed an American premiere and a world premiere, and was a guest artist-teacher in many universities and professional academies including Cornell, Juilliard and American University, D.C., the Lake George Opera, N.Y., the Virginia Opera, the Illinois Opera Theatre, the West Virginia Opera Theatre, and the Peabody Institute, Baltimore.
He was born in Shoreham, Kent, United Kingdom; his father, Franklin C. White was a Royal Academy artist, Slade School teacher and founder of the Samuel Palmer School of Fine Arts. His mother, Olga White, nee Hart, was a noted violinist trained by Fritz Kreisler.
He is survived by his brother, Eddie Franklin of Montcharmont, France; wife, Joan Hunter (formerly Joan Franklin-White) of London, United Kingdom; and son, Michael Franklin-White, scene designer and scenic artist of Champaign.
Part of Franklin White's ballet collection will be donated to the Lincoln Center Library of Dance, New York City, N.Y.
Morgan Memorial Home, Savoy, is handling arrangements.